Anglicans in the Diocese of Auckland and Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau have mobilised their buildings, community care and funding support to communities affected by extreme weather events in early 2023.
Major flooding hit Tāmaki-makau-rau Auckland and Te Tai Tokerau in late January, followed by Cyclone Gabrielle’s downpours two weeks later that drove hundreds from their homes or rental properties due to floods, slips and high force winds.
Five people died in the North’s weather bombs and more than 220 households were displaced from their homes –now ‘red-stickered’ as not fit for habitation – including those damaged or threatened by landslips in the West Auckland suburbs of Piha, Karekare, Waimauku and Muriwai.
While Auckland’s mostly hilltop Anglican churches fared well in the storms, fast-flowing leaks, slips and flooding caused damage at: Te Karaiti Te Pou Herenga Waka, Holy Trinity deanery grounds, Avondale, Henderson, Huapai, Milford, Northwest, St Pauls Symonds St and St Aidan’s Anglican churches.
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As the floods rose, the Auckland City Mission called for help and raised $300,000 in donations to help feed, house and protect hundreds of people at risk from the elements, particularly those who lacked homes already.
Auckland City Mission staff set out before the storms to welfare check folk sleeping rough – making sure they were safe and had appropriate shelter, equipment and clothing to weather the events.
Next, the Mission’s distribution centre, housing and marae partners provided food and emergency needs for people displaced or living in Cyclone-damaged homes.
With its own distribution centre flooded, the Auckland City Mission reopened in a temporary space. To expand its reach the Mission funded housing services through Vision West Community Housing scheme and frontline support through three Auckland-based marae emergency centres at Nga Whare Waatea Marae, Papakura Marae and Manurewa Marae in Auckland.
In March 2023, the Auckland City Mission provided Cyclone-affected whānau with more than 5,100 weekly family food parcels, plus provided for 1000s of marae-catered meals, totalling a quarter million meals served in that month.
Now the Mission’s Flood Appeal is funding weekly food help for whānau without the financial reserves to handle high extra costs of Cyclone or flooding-related repairs or relocation.
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Auckland churches were not completely spared in this year’s Cyclone downpours.
Water got in to damage St Paul’s Symonds St sanctuary and clergy housing, while Vicar of Henderson Rev Nyasha Gumbeze reports that St Michael’s Henderson’s basement has flooded three times over this summer, leaving its carpets spoiled and displacing community groups. Rev Nyasha says the next challenge is to identify how the church can prevent further flooding.
Archdeacon of Auckland Carole Hughes reported that many Auckland Anglicans headed out after the floods to assist evacuating rest homes, or to clean up community centres and houses.
Many churches had embraced local families hit by floods providing meals, she said, offering accommodation and replacements or loans to cover lost possessions, while St Chad’s Huapai set up as emergency centre.
“But in a lot of places you wouldn’t have seen an official ‘response,’” said Auckland Diocesan Manager, Sonia Maugham.
“Some of these communities just wrapped around their people who had lost homes or belongings in the floods and didn’t make any noise about it.”
Sonia says Auckland Diocesan staff have focused efforts on getting insurance assessors out across the region, but she admits not everything can be assessed that easily.
“Some of the affects aren’t visible – like helping people cope with the grief of losing precious things – things connected with memories, irreplacable things.”
“Those experiences are hard, especially for kids.”
In Auckland City and further north, Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau identified many people were under extra strain due to the weather events, so the Selwyn Foundation funded grants for older people facing losses, extra costs or displacement.
With Selwyn’s backing, Te Pihopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau shared $185,000 in small grants with 250 affected kuia and kaumatua across the north, as well as around twenty whānau facing major property damage.
Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau also provided a Selwyn-backed grant to Te Houhanga Marae on the outskirts of Dargaville – where Rev Christine Honetana-Payne reports an ornately carved whare tupuna at ground level was badly inundated, alongside the marae’s wharekai and ablution blocks.
$10,000 from the Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau fund will help repair Houhanga Marae’s community facilities, following on from its initial $2.5K grant via Hāpaitia that helped the marae team clear damaged materials away and begin repairs.
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In the southern Kaipara district, Rev Jacynthia Murphy joined the community-led response for its first ten days, making sure families forced from homes were housed and fed at Helensville Primary School evacuation centre as they sorted out their next steps.
“I put my marae hat on and we got everyone set up with what they needed: whether it was bedding, a hot shower, charging their device so they could sort out where to go next, or even finding a cage to house their pets in for the night.”
Jacynthia said the evacuation centre role involved a fair amount of pastoral care too.
“There was a lot of talking about everything that had happened, and some crying. People had a lot to handle. For those that asked me, I prayed with them too.”
When the Helensville school reopened, St Matthews’ Cooperating Church became a drop-in centre for flooded-out families, helping with practical, pastoral and spiritual care as people waited for flooded roads to reopen and took the chance to recharge phones, chat or nap.
Further north in Dargaville, Rev Frank Nelson and the Holy Trinity Anglican Church community repurposed their hall at short notice to host the town’s Civil Defence evacuation centre for Northland’s flooding events.
“The Holy Trinity evacuation centre provided a safe, dry and warm refuge, hot food and time to breathe for those who were door-knocked at 4am as the raging rivers met the rising king tide.” reported Fr Frank.
Due to media coverage of Holy Trinity’s work, rural Otago Anglicans from St Andrew’s Maheno sent through petrol vouchers, which Holy Trinity shared with families with extra costs after the storms and with Waikaretu Marae in Pouto to help with generator costs.
Further north in Kaitaia, an Anglican vicarage was flooded, while at Oromahoe an Anglican Church lost its steeple in the storm as high speed winds caused widespread damage across the Hokianga. Violent gales badly damaged a number of homes, including some where rooves were blown off causing water damage and breakage to exposed furniture and belongings.
Downed electricity lines left pockets of the northern Hokianga without power and isolated by broken roading connections, leaving whānau to cook on open fires.
Martha Kilgour at Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri (Te Pihopatanga o Tai Tokerau Māori Anglican Social Services) in Kaitaia said her social workers were visiting families in isolated rural areas who had no power, but who were running out of food too.
Hāpaitia’s $10K grant allowed Te Whare to get cooking gear, fuel and food out to them, as well as buy generators, replacement mattresses and bed linen.
“It was a blessing for them to find support that they needed to bring a bit of relief into their homes and they were grateful for the awhi that was given.” said Martha.
For Te Whare, the Church’s quick response through Hāpaitia underscored the value of working together to support whānau who are doing a great job, but appreciated some help to relieve the pressure.
“We hope to work more closely with each other, so that we can share the responsibility of caring for our whānau whether it is through karakia, social supports, offering kai, pastoral care, an ear to listen, or an uplift to get through their day.”
Right now, Cyclone Gabrielle Appeal funding remains open for Expressions of Interest.
Hāpaitia considers projects that address either current or longer term needs, including work to future proof vulnerable communities, including hiring experts to assess at risk marae and church buildings, medium term Cyclone repairs and provisions for people still coping with inadequate conditions.
Anglican Missions is now receiving expressions of interest for grant funding of up to $10,000. Contact Anglican Missions on 04 473 5172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your proposal idea. More information on this process can be found at https://www.hapaitia.org.nz/tinana
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